Good program management is founded on a secure set of program control processes. However, there is a tendency to think that all that is needed for good program management is to ‘turn the handle’ on these processes. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Effective program management requires that the information provided by the controls is acted upon – because having the information is only a starting point.
But before we can act we need information. And to obtain information we need to implement program controls.
Program controls must be aimed at the integration of constituent projects (in particular the management of cross-project issues and dependencies) and the achievement of benefits. Reporting must address consolidation of project data and provide the discrete program perspective.
Action-oriented control mechanisms enable changing circumstances and priorities to be managed dynamically – steering, re-shaping or terminating existing projects, or launching new projects, as the situation dictates.
Experience tells us that program controls should be tied together as explained in the diagram below.
Within a program it is necessary to integrate on a number of dimensions:
- Design – ensuring the design of any project component fits within the overall program design and within the wider business and technical architecture
- Delivery – managing internal, cross-project dependencies, external dependencies (with other programs, internal departments, and third parties) to ensure that delivery of change is coherent and synchronized
- Resources – ensuring optimal use of limited skills and facilities given multiple competing demands of individual projects
- Business impact – the impact of each project on individual business units/departments is clearly understood such that implementation may be managed efficiently and excessive demands are avoided
- Disruption – ensuring that issues, risks, and changes, which may affect more than one project, are considered in the wider context and managed appropriately
- Communication – Integrating communications into the infrastructure of a change program can increase its effectiveness, improve the likelihood of its acceptance among staff and also help those charges with delivery focus on the real issues that need to be addressed when the scope of the change seems vast.
When program controls are implemented across these dimensions, they provide the foundation to ‘do it right’. They allow a program manager to collect the information which is vital to focused, targeted action.